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tv   Politics Nation  MSNBC  January 24, 2012 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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presidency and use a second term to reach his goal of working with republican grownups to make that dream of american opportunity once again a living, breathing reality. and that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "politics nation" with al sharpton starts right now. welcome to "politics nation," i'm al sharpton. in less than two hours, the president will go to capitol hill to give what could be his most important speech of the year, his annual state of the union address. it is a speech that will be sent around fairness, fixing a system skewed to the rich. the president is addressing this gap on the same day we learned that mitt romney is profiting from this rigged system. we learned today that willard isn't just in the top 1%, he is in the top 0.006%. he is an elite among the elites.
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romney's tax returns show he made $45 million over the last two years. in 2010, he paid a tax rate of just under 14%, yet millions of americans, like warren buffett's secretary, who are not rich like romney, pay nearly a 30% tax rate and romney's paying half that? even though he makes $57,000 in one day, that's far from the $33,000 an lit median income an american makes. look at that. no wonder romney was scared democrats would use this. >> i know the democrats will go after me on that basis and that's why i want to release these things all at the same time. >> now, romney's taxes show nothing illegal but someone working a system that's deeply unfair. you start by earning more than $21 million a year without
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having a job, then you pay less than 14% in taxes and you park your money in offshore accounts and places like switzerland and the cayman islands. what these taxes tell us is that willard mitt romney is the perfect person to represent the 1%. but can he really claim to have a clue about the rest of us? joining me now is pulitzer prize-winning writer david k. johnston, he's columnist for reuters and author of the book "perfectly legal, the covert campaign to rig our tax system to benefit the super rich and cheat everyone else" and rebecca wilkins, tax expert at citizens for tax justice. and to cover the politics of the all this, joan walsh, editor at large for salon.com. thank you all for coming on the show tonight. >> thanks. >> let me start with you, david, mitt romney made 42 million over the last two years but paid
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taxes at lower rate than many middle class americans. is that the headline to you out of this story? >> oh, absolutely. a school teacher, a police officer, a nurse who made $54,000 in 2010 paid the same tax rate. if you made $60,000, you were more heavily taxed than mitt romney. and the -- the system that allows this is based on this idea that businesses are double taxed and that the rich will not invest and they will not create jobs unless we lower their taxes. well, we have got years and years of evidence now that that's just not how it works. >> now, let me ask you, rebecca, he put some money in the caymans and in the -- in switzerland and in other places, we are showing money all over the world, bermuda, ireland, luxembourg.
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i mean, what is the tax benefits of that? i know it is not illegal but what is the strategy and why do super rich people do this? >> well, his tax return is 203 pages long and it's the best illustration i can think of all the things that are unfair about the tax code. most of the forms in his return are forms that most of us will never have to file because they are about his offshore holdings or the special tax planning he did around charitable trusts and all the ways that the tax code favors the wealthy and allows them really easy ways to reduce their tax rate. >> now, david, i think that what i want to make clear, we are not begrudging him being wealthy and we are not accusing him of being illegal. i think the bigger point here is the loopholes and the things that the rich get away with some of the tax laws the way they
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are. average americans don't benefit from it, many of us, i have had my battles i just solved with the irs, but we are talking about what is unfair and unequal. i think that's what really bothers a lot of americans about this story. >> america has two income tax systems, al, separate and unequal. one system is for wage earners and operators of mom and pop businesses who are very efficiently and effectively taxed by the federal government and there's extensive verification of their income and the minor deductions they are allowed to take. the other system is for this tiny segment of people, like mitt romney, who are allowed to enjoy income now and pay taxes by and by, who are allowed to make use of all sorts of tax treaties and agreements, all of which are legal, but have the effect of making huge amounts of money appear to be nothing to the irs, and when they do take money, then they only have to
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pay at this 15% rate. >> now, joan, the politics of this. willard and newt both have had these little questions about income. but on the tax fairness question, which is on the willard part of this look at what is going on in the republican primaries, he had suggested -- he didn't suggested, but he said that we were engaged in the politics of envy, but suspect this really about fairness? no one's jealous that he is making all of this money. it's that out of his money, he is not paying the same percentage in income tax and under the same rules that all of us have to follow. >> exactly, reverend al, that's the point. i mean, it's so interesting. we have been calling him mr. 1%. now do we have to call him mr. 0.006%? it doesn't roll off the tongue
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quite as well. just when you were reading the title of david's great book, which i read when it came out, this has been an obscure issue for so long but i'm glad he put it the way he did. we have two nations, separate and unequal, when it comes to the tax system and mitt romney has become the poster boy for that inequity. i mean, you and i would not be sitting here talking about this in this kind of detail even a few months ago. so, between occupy wall street, the president's change of tone and now, this really great case study and tax on fairness, the country is getting an education in things that they really didn't know. i mean, i'm not sure i knew some of t you know, i don't pay those kinds of taxes, i don't make that kind of money. just a way for most americans, the issue of tax, oh, i pay too much. well, maybe they do and maybe these other people could pay a little bit more and it is also enforce sod unfairly, as david says, they go after -- there's a real record of them going after
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smaller earners and business owners and basically ignoring what the mitt romneys do. maybe they can't understand it maybe the irs can't understand what they are doing themselves. >> the other thing that really comes into focus now, joan, is they actually fight to keep this. it is not like this is some, you know, system that's set up and it is like it is the way it is, they aggressively fight to keep the system the way it is and have the audacity to accuse those that question it like we're envious or somehow, wither in wait of job creators when this imbalance is absolutely obscene. >> right. and really, let me say god did not create the tax system. this was not in the garden of eden. rich people have rigged the system over the years, over and over, to tilt the balance increasingly in their favor.
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you know, milt is able to draw, paid by bain for work he hasn't done in 20 years and that payment is taxed differently as capital gains. they have fought to keep all of these deductions. we have seen in the last year, the slightest change to the tax code proposed by the president is just greeted with class warfare cries. so it is not that this just happened it is that it increasingly was rigged that way and it is really wonderful that the country is finally figure it out. >> now, david, another thing that was a little surprising to me and help me with this, mr. romney, willard gave $100 million to his children and didn't have any taxes involved in this transfer of this huge amount of money? how's that possible? >> yeah al, if -- well, al, it's because congress says that the value of this thing called carried interest which is how romney made his money, if you give it to your children, is
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zero. so, if you were to give the right to collect say $5 million a year in div dentds to your children because you had that right, you wouldn't -- you would value it at zero when giving it to your children because of the way congress treats this. it is absurd the gift the children get is zero, they have $100 million in their trust fund, who knows how high it would go parents pay no gift tax. normally on $100 gift to children, would you pay a $30 million-plus gift tax. >> rebecca, it is an issue of fairness. the president will talk about that as the issue of our time it is. this is about fairness. this is about making sure that everyone has the same investment in the country. i think that this, the bringing out of willard's taxes, should bring issue front and center in the country about how unfair and
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unequal the tax laws for the average american. >> i think that's right. they will show, obviously, that he is paying a much lower rate and that's because of the things that he can do that most of us can't do because we don't have the wealth he has, but also because the tax code taxes work at a lot higher rate than taxes income from wealth. >> well, the president will be talking about closing these tax loopholes and loopholes for the rich tonight in his state of the union address, we will all be watching within the next three hours. david, rebecca and joan, thank you for coming on the show tonight. >> thank you. >> thank you. coming up, tax troubles may be just the beginning of willard's problems. newt's making a big money play for florida. and brand-new details about tonight's state of the union less than three hours away. president obama is vowing to fight obstruction and make sure everyone gets a fair shot.
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plus, john boehner says the president is "almost unamerican." you better believe i'll have something to say about that. you're watching "politics nation" on msnbc. when you have tough pain, do you want fast relief? try bayer advanced aspirin. it has microparticles so it enters the bloodstream fast and rushes relief to the site of your tough pain. it's proven to relieve pain twice as fast as before. bayer advanced aspirin.
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♪ [ laughs ] ♪ ♪
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is willard romney wilting in the florida sun? big news on his reversal of fortune. that's next. brad, wher
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mitt romney is getting a pretty sweet deal on his taxes but might have to pay a hefty price politically. for more than a week, newt's been gaining on willard nationally, little by little. and today, newt took the lead. he is ahead by four points in today's gallup national poll. this stunning chart tells the story. the dog line is willard's unfavorability numbers. the gray line is favorability. just look at the reversal. willard's ungafavorability soar, ballooned 15 points in two weeks. the tax return controversy and all the bain attacks have done some real damage to a candidate who still can't convince gop voters he is a real conservative. >> what have you done to further the cause of conservatism as a republican leader? >> well, number one, i have raised a family. number two, i have worked in the
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private sector and then i took an opportunity to become governor of a state that was slightly democrat. and now i'm taking that to a presidential campaign. >> he has promoted conservatism by raising a family and becoming governor in a democratic state? no wonder more and more conservatives are giving newt gingrich a second look, including you at a boisterous rally today in florida. >> if we win the primary next tuesday, i believe i will become the republican nominee. that's the power you have. >> joining me now is msnbc analyst richard wolffe and steve karen knack kirk political columnist for salon.com. richard, isn't this the most serious crisis that romney has faced so far in this election? >> since the last rise of newt gingrich, yeah. they thought they killed him, he comes back from the dead and he has always been the biggest threat because he is a national
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figure, he has that poise when it comes to these debates that he can either sees the advantage in them or trying to just rise above it. so he doesn't have to prove anything, other than, you know, he is stable and sensible, whereas mitt romney those try to convince people that he is where the base of the party s there is a fundamental mispatch there and just as big as the reverse mispatch, which romney has all the money and organization and newt's just got the name. >> now, let me ask you, steve, when i look at these figures, this is romney's unfavorability among whites earning less than $50,000. now, two weeks ago, ungave built was 29% in that category. now it is 49%. that is startling. >> yeah and i think what's happened here is with the bain stuff and the tax stuff it sort of exposed a problem that was actually already there and it's potentially very serious for him if he does survive this and get to the jeep election.
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le tax stuff was part of the south carolina rice. if you look back at the polls in new hampshire and iowa, there was a direct relationship between enthusiasm for mitt romney on the part of voters and income level. he absolutely destroyed the competition when it came to people over 100,000, 20e6r 00,000 incomes. you look at 30,0002075,000, he was getting clobbered. this was before anybody was talking about his taxes. it says to me in this climate, actually having a national conversation about inequality, occupy wall street, things like that are in the air and people were thinking about that, there was already a fundamental image problem with him, he sort of -- his 1 percentness was making difficult to relate to voters. >> i'm coming back to you you rich, let me follow that up, steve. when one of the arguments that willard used was that he could attract independents, but "washington post" does a poll
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where they judge favorabilities among independents. president obama, 51%, romney's now down to 23% among independents. so, that argument appears to be gone. >> and that's just t you look at sort of the key voters in the republican party are increasingly becoming, you know, lower educated, middle, lower income voters, not traditionally part of the republican coalition, but more so having big trouble with him, you look at hot swing voters will be, we always hear about ohio, always hear about pennsylvania, we are hearing about states were it is going to be the middle class the swing voters who decide the leeks and if we are getting warning signs right now that among sort of blue collar republicans he can't relate, i don't see why he is suddenly going to be able to relate to blue collar end pep dents. >> richard, how is it possible for him to turn this around? >> well, look, i think woe look stronger as a character, as a leader, if he starts to win. the problem for shim florida doesn't look so good. looks like there is a zero-sum
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game in terms to of the air wars between the candidates, at least on the super pac side. february is going to be a whole lot better for him, he will win a string of states he won last time around, places like michigan and alabama where he has an in-built advantage. that will help him out, he can go the long run. the problem is, as hillary clinton found, once you have started out as the inevitable candidate and inhe have vity tab budget goes, you can never get it back, so, you always look like you have been weakened to the point where maybe there is no return. >> richard, let push that you on a minute, you are saying he can lose florida and still win the nomination? >> drag on flew february, recover a lot through february, win four, five, six states because of his in-belt advantage, because of his name recognition, because of the kind of voters will are there so you are really looking for a month of dragging things out and then see where newt is by the time we get to super tuesday.
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this race, you cannot mathematically win it until april, require a lot of money, a lot of discipline for newt gingrich. the hope for romney is inevitable sit off the table for me but maybe i can damage the other guy enough to raise reasonable doubt among republican voters. >> now, steve, i was about to say that richard didn't make sense, until he put discipline and newt gingrich in the same sentence. because they don't go together. so, clearly, one of the things that could happen is newt can shoot himself in the foot or foot in the mouth, whichever you prefer, that could certainly turn things around as we speak because newt is definitely capable of self-destruction. >> i absolutely agree, there is many people and paths for mitt romney to win the nomination. one thing i wouldn't say, sure he looks good in michigan now, sure the family ties, sure he won in 2008. if he loses florida in an absolute sort of crisis,
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catastrophe atmosphere sets in around his presidential campaign, showed how much these numbers have changed in the last week, nationally and in florida imagine something similar happening in other states now, you factor in a florida loss perceived as a melt down, the floor could fall out in these places, i wouldn't rule that out comp completely, you get through february and get to super tuesday you can sort of dominated by southern states, i have seep polling numbers from southern states going back a month or two, hasn't been too much, but even before gingrich's surge, romney was alarmingly low in states like mis, alabama, gingrich was surprisingly high, before gingrich surged everywhere else. if gingrich can take this to super tuesday, he can clean up in the south. >> now, richard, gingrich got a little more money today. >> yep. >> from the wife of his big donor, another $5 million. and we are told pro-gingrich super pac is to spend $6 million in florida alone.
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as gingrich goes on, picks up steam and money, he may be banking on winning florida and losing a couple and then trying to runt tables on super tuesday. >> generally the money follows whoever the rich folks think going to be powerful and they want to cozy up to. they maybe the checks will flow. that could get him through february. the problem here is we haven't seen front-runners in this race hold that title for more than a couple of weeks at a time. mitt romney didn't do t newt gingrich didn't do t and all the others before them. so, holding onto a front-runner lead, position, all wait through february, all the debates we are going to jam into it is hard going for anyone, never mind someone with a zany erratic nature of newt gingrich. >> well, that he does have, zany and erratic. richard golf, steve corn knacky, thank you both for being with me tonight. less than three hours from the president's state of the union address. he will make an appeal for
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fairness. what will call the defining issue of our time fairness? we will have details on the speech coming up. stay with us. [ female announcer ] this is not a prescription. this is mary. who has a million things to pick up each month on top of her prescriptions. thankfully, her walgreens pharmacist recommended a 3-month supply. now, mary gets 3 refills in one and for 3 months she's done. ask your pharmacist about a 90 day supply
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we know republicans are on the wrong side of a lot of issues, but now they are lining up against tom brady and eli manning. let me explain. tonight, indiana governor mitch
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daniels will give the gop response to the state of the union. daniels is pushing a far-right plan for his state that would gut unions through a so-called right-to-work bill. >> almost half our fellow states have right-to-work laws. as a group, they are adding jobs faster, growing worker income faster and enjoying lower unemployment rates than those of us without such a law. >> daniels needs to get his facts straight. right-to-work laws cause wages to fall by about $1,500 a year and six of the ten states with the worst unemployment rates have these laws on the books. but daniels has a bigger problem. his anti-union bill is being condemned by the nfl players association. the guys on the field in indianapolis that millions will be cheering for on super bowl
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sunday, football players, they are union workers and they are trying to tackle this later gop attack on workers rights. mitch daniels may think he can handle his critics but has he met the patriots and the giants? sorry, governor, but we got you. uh, i'm in a timeout because apparently riding the dog like it's a small horse is frowned upon in this establishment! luckily though, ya know, i conceal this bad boy underneath my blanket just so i can get on e-trade. check my investment portfolio, research stocks...
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or high blood pressure before taking advair. if you're still having difficulty breathing, take the lead. ask your doctor if including advair could help improve your lung function. get your first full prescription free and save on refills at advaircopd.com. let's get a recap, merv. [ merv ] thanks, other merv. mr. clean magic eraser extra power was three times faster on permanent marker. elsewhere against dirt, it was a sweep, with scuffed sports equipment... had it coming. grungy phones...
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oh! super dirty! and grimy car rims... wow! that really works! ...all taking losses. it looks like mr. clean has won everything. the cleaning games are finished? and so are we. okay, but i just took a mortgage out on the cabinet. [ male announcer ] clean more, work less, with the mr. clean magic eraser extra power. is heart-breaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal, but the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work, that's inexcusable. it is wrong. it flies in the face of everything that we stand for. >> that was president obama last month pounding home the key message of fairness. it is also the central theme of
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his state of the union speech, which he will give in about two and a half hours. brand-new excerpts of the speech show the president fighting for fair innocence a major way. "we can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules, what's at stake are not democratic values or republican values, but american values. we have to reclaim them. restoring an economy where every american gets a fair shot is his mission and it should be his missing. the divide is shocking. take a look at this graph. the red line represents the top 1%. they have seen annual household
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income soar over 275% since 1979. but the poorest 20% marked by that bottom black line, they have barely inched up. they barely inched up in nearly 350 years. the richest 400 americans have more wealth than the poorest 150 million people in this country combined. this is not the america people dream about. yet as president obama prepares to fight for fairness, republicans are on message, hours before the speech. they are already claiming the speech will divide us. no, gop, not bringing this up is what divides us. joining me now, senator sherrod brown, democrat from ohio. thanks for joining me, senator. >> good to be back, reverend sharpton, thank you. >> the president has also invited several guests tonight and i want to talk about
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someone, someone we have heard a lot about, you might not know her by name, but debbie warren -- debbie is a secretary, not just a secretary, she is warren buffett's secretary, she will be there tonight. warn, of course, has said that he should pay a high tax rate than his secretary and i would like to compare her to willard romney. let's look at their story. she makes 60,000 a yeerpd willard makes nearly $22 million a year. she pace 30% in taxes, he pace only 14%. how is this fair, senator? >> it is not fair. romney and his taxes are a good thing for this country to help -- to help us learn more about how he made his money, not by making things, he mostly made his money by buying and selling companies, often laying people
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off. he then pays, because it is capital gains, pace at a 15% maximum ray. he has other kinds of deduction and all that, which brings him down below 15%, yet he is not -- generally not making things, they are not creating jobs. when elizabeth williams joins you in a minute, she makes things, she makes cars in youngstown and lawrencetown, ohio, and her tax rate is probably higher than mitt romney's, too. there has to be the discussion about making things, the president talking about manufacturing, about making steel about making car, about making the things that create wealth, not everything being about finance and wall street. that's why i'm glad all this discussion is going on, in the end, the president's right tonight to talk about fairer taxes, put money in the middle class people by giving them a tax break, spend them on credits, give taxes to mitt romney, probably doesn't do that. >> but senator, you know and i
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know, they are going to start the attacks of this is class warfa warfare, this is divisive. how does the president connect tonight to the american public what this is really all about in terms of fairness? this is not anti-rich that we don't like people that are successful. this is about fairness. >> i don't have anything against rich people they make money they make money what is the class war fair is the attack on wall street, main street cleveland, main street dayton, that has been the class warfare, that a small number of people have don't richer and rich, while more people's homes are foreclosed on, more auto workers lost their jobs, more shop keepers and hardware store dealers lost their jobs because of what wall street did to this country. all we are doing is pointing out the class war fare that they committed and i think the public totally get s ths that the publ
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hears talk about class warfare from newt gingrich and mitt romney talk about his wealth, that is why the country is figuring all of them out, we want a fairer tax system that puts money in the pockets of middle class, build manufacturer, seen two years, nine quarters in a row of manufacturing job growth in this country, after 12 years of decline and that is, again, what elizabeth is here tonight to show. >> you referred to elizabeth, let me bring her in accompanied by elizabeth williams, a general motors worker from lordstown, ohio, and she will be your guest tonight. >> she is. correct. >> now, elizabeth, let me ask you, do you and your fellow workers at the gm plant credit the president with keeping your job in that industry going? >> yes, very much so. >> so, when you are faced with those who wonder what this president has done, you are a living ex-arch that will the
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bailout of the auto industry really was not about the guys at the top but saving workers' jobs like your own? >> yes. i do. i do believe it because it even added more jobsyour own? >> yes. i do. i do believe it because it even added more jobs to the area, like v & m star, brought in jobs there even though some of the plant also to close down, we have our plant and plenty others and bringing more people to our plant from traps officers and stuff. so i do believe that it was a good thing. >> now, senator, you bring elizabeth, who is representative of a tangible representative of the bailout when you have on the other side, willard romney and others who said let detroit fail. i think that this election this year and really where we will have to decide as a country is government's role in whether or not the government should be there to help make sure people
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are treated fairly and they are protected or the government there to protect the top 1% of the country. >> if mitt romney had his way, chrysler and gm would have gone -- gone into bankruptcy, with nobody financing their recovery. would have meant likely elizabeth, now 5,000 workers at the two plants. i called the union, local 1112, asked them to, you know, to send somebody to washington to be my guest in the gallery and they called in elizabeth to do this we had not met until today. but she some symbolized to me not just those 5,000 auto workers, but including her son are helping to build a new steel mill in youngstown, came out of trade route enforcement by the president and came out of the recovery act. we know the chevy cruse, built in lawrencetown, the engine made in ohio, the bumper and transmission out of toll lead coker the steel and aluminum out
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of cleveland, 5,000 workers on three shifts are building t everybody in ohio knows if we had not done the auto rescue, we would have gone into a depression in -- and far too many people would not have had a paycheck, especially one that builds a middle class wage, so elizabeth as a single parent could take care of her kids. >> now, senator, elizabeth is your guest. one of the president's guests tonight is adam rabb. adam is a cancer patient, 23 years old who ben fitted from the affordable care act. he found out two weeks ago that he is cancer-free and he is in the president's box tonight. so, there's another example of what was accomplished that the opposition won't talk about. 43, 44 americans watching tonight are facing some dire
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times. what does the president say that will both encourage them and connect with them that what he is saying is what they need to continue to have faith in and continue to support. how does it connect with them? >> i think he looks back for a moment and talks about the auto rescue and how we know that virtually everybody in the country understands without the auto rescue we would have been in depression in many states. i think he looks back for a moment on the health care bill and talks about the 23-year-old on her mother's insurance or the senior that's getting a free -- a free preventive care or screenings or talks about the person who loses his health insurance, got really sick, expensive and can't throw him off now because of the health care plan. then he has got look forward, give us the foote restoring american manufacturing and give us the path on how this health insurance law is going to work for millions of americans. many without insurance. and those with insurance are
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going to get much better consumer protections because the president and the congress stepped up and did it right. >> i'm going to have to leave it right there, senator sherrod brown, and elizabeth williams, good to meet you and thank you both for your time tonight. >> thank you, al. >> thank you. up next, it's a night like no other, a night to speak directly to the american people. we will get some perspective on the state of the union from a presidential historian. michael beschloss. ♪ eggland's best eggs. -the best in nutrition... -just got better. even better nutrition -- high in vitamins d, e and b12. a good source of vitamin b2. plus omega threes. and 25% less saturated fat than ordinary eggs. but there's one important ingredient that hasn't changed. -better taste. -better taste. -better taste. -mmmm... [ female announcer ] eggland's best. better taste and now even better nutrition make the better egg.
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one of the most controversial moments in president obama's state of the union two years ago was this blunt attack on citizens united, supreme court ruling, which allows corporation to us spend unlimited amounts on elections. with all due deference to separation of powers, last weeks, the supreme court reversed a century of law that i believe will open the flood gates on foreign interests, including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections. >> now, that was supreme court justice samuel alito shaking his head and telling the president that what he was saying wasn't true. now, just days after the second anniversary of the ruling, we can see with our own eyes,
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president obama was totally right. in the last 24 days, 290 super pacs have spent over $34 million in the 2012 election, secret money pouring into the political system. and while the super pacs try to bankroll the elections, americans respeamerican americans aren't buying t 62% of all voters oppose the steps united decision, the president calling out at supreme court was an unforgettable moment in the state of the union. coming up, we will talk about just how big these nights are for the president. you know organization is key... and so is having a trusted assistant. and you...rent from national. because only national lets you choose any car in the aisle...and go. you can even take a full-size or above and still pay the mid-size price. here we are...
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to learn more, visit us today. responsibility. what's your policy? you are looking at a live picture of capitol hill where in about two hours, president obama will deliver his state of the union address. this is a night for a president to define the political conversation, report where we are as a nation and make his
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case for the best path to a bright future of america. it's a night steeped in tradition. every president since woodrow wilson has delivered it before a joint session of congress. the white house released this behind-the-scenes video showing president obama working on his speech. he was still working on the speech as recently as this afternoon. >> is the speech done, sir? >> just how big a night is this for a president? joining me now is michael beschloss, the nbc news presidential historian. michael, thanks for your time tonight. >> pleasure, reverend. >> so, how big a night is this for a president? >> well, you know, it's -- barack obama may not get this big a megaphone again until election in november, it is a
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big weapon of presidential power, you know, truman and eisenhower and kennedy used to give these speeches about 12:30 in the afternoon, not terribly many people saw them and lyndon johnson, who was someone who really appreciated power and knew how to acquire it felt if you give the speech in the evening, you will have a much bigger audience and is one of the rare occasions that a president has to communicate with the american people directly. these day, a president is rarely able to do that. >> now, the president is in a situation tonight where he is trying to build back the economy, show some gradual improvement so he has to speak as the president guiding the country away from a disaster he inher red. he has to deal with the fact that he has the foreign affairs situations, he is dealing with all over the world. and he is running for re-election.
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tell me about presidents that have had to deal with a similar situation, commander in chief and election and also had to face an election, tell me about presidents that handled the moment and balanced all those things and some that blew it? >> well, you know, it is a gift, because a president gets to be in this role of chief of state, unifying moment, which is probably not something a president is going to have during the course of an election year, presidents who know how to use this moment really reap dividends. for example, bill clinton in 1996 want to position himself as more centrist than people had seen him. >> he was running for re-election in '96. >> running for re-election that speech is remembered for one line, the era of big government is over, sort of telegraphed to people that clinton had become a moderate. when you look at it the sentence was almost ridiculous you can the government was not a bit over, large year, larger every year since but it gave people
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the seine he was more centrist than a lot of them thought they were, a health care plan voted down by congress and democrats lost the house and senate in 1994. looking at the other end, george bush the elder, 1992, fought the gulf war, enormously high popularity ratings but there was a recession. people on his staff said use the state of the union to have understand how important this is perhaps declare an operation domestic storm, sort of like operation desert storm, to show people that you're going to make a huge effort to tackle these problems. accident do it and in retrospect, he felt he should have. >> you have one president, bill clinton, who spoke that night about what was a lot of concerns of a lot of americans, as he was facing re-election, the size of government and even though it didn't follow through exactly
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that way, he was able to corner that and connect and you have president bush number one who really ignored the economic hard times and talked about other thingses. >> i never felt that he could speak with that kind of force. >> so, given your review of history, the president needs to address tonight what most americans really are feeling and most americans want to hear? >> sure. and it's not going to be easy for him, because, to his credit, president obama tends no to the speak in sound bits and bumper stickers. he gave a wonderful speech that you were talking about and not memorable, few people remember it in the same way they remember clinton saying the era of big government was over. >> michael beschloss, thanks for your time and your insight tonight. >> my pleasure. ahead, the a he is a night to come together for the country. but speaker boehner is playing
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politics with some new comments about the president. my commentary next. [ female announcer ] women move the world. and caltrate moves us. helping strengthen our bones. caltrate delivers 1200 milligrams of calcium and 800 iu of vitamin d plus minerals. women need caltrate. caltrate helps women keep moving because women move the world. ♪ [ gong ] strawberry banana! [ male announcer ] for a smoothie with real fruit
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governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. new laws will only pass with support from democrats and republicans. we will move forward together or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party and bigger than politics. >> that was president obama last year's state of the union, calling for unity between the political parties. tonight, he will try yet again to get republicans to come together for america. but after a year of partisan politics, the divide remains wide. just listen to what speaker john boehner said today. he said, "this is the president who said i am not going to be a divider, i'm going to be a
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uniter. running on the politics of division and envy is, to me, it's almost un-american." the leader of the republican party calls the president almost un-american? unfortunately, at least one of the speaker's caucus seems to agree with his words, colorado republican doug lamborn. he announced he won't even attend tonight's state of the union. his office says lamb born wants to "send a clear message that he does not support the poll at this soifs barack obama, that they have hurt our country." and we haven't heard a beep out of boehner encouraging lamb born to show up tonight. mr. president, as much as it's tempting, ignore them, speak to the needs and the dreams of the american people

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